Staying home can be a relaxing experience with a few smart decorating tweaks that cater to your senses. To show us how it's done, we called on interior stylist Angela Belt and feng shui expert Laura Cerrano to find out how to have a real staycation and transform your abode into a tranquil retreat. Below are their top 20 tips.
Meet the Expert
- Angela Belt is a Connecticut-based interior stylist and principal of Angela Belt Art and Style LLC. Belt has styled photoshoots and events for Elle, HGTV, and Essence magazine.
- Laura Cerrano is a New-based feng shui expert and has been featured in Oprah magazine and The New York Times, as well as on BBC Radio.
"Create a calm environment [by layering] lighting throughout the space," Belt advises. "Try floor and table lamps with neutral color shades, like white or beige, to evoke a sense of calmness. [Design your own quiet nook by] layering accent lighting with a reading chair in a corner," Belt adds.
There's something instantly relaxing about walking into a pristine hotel suite free of clutter and overflowing hampers. To re-create the calming experience at home, address clutter first. A recent UCLA study found that women who live with clutter have higher levels of cortisol, the stress hormone associated with a string of health issues.
Place baskets at every entryway for shoes and trays or hampers where messes collect.
Consider the flow of the room, and rearrange furniture to create symmetry. "By designing a room with symmetry, you create a mirror-like image in a space," Belt says. "The room looks and feels calmer because there are fewer pieces and objects to focus on."
Introduce Accents in Calm Colors
Cerrano believes décor in "foundation or grounding colors" can instantly change the mood of a space. Opt for accent pieces—like lamps, trays, and decorative objects—in soft shades of lavender, blue, green, or beige, or earth tones like dusty yellow.
Moments of pure silence can be fleeting if you live in a city or share your home with others. If you're accustomed to the whir of a siren or the buzz of background television, it's time to switch off. Create a relaxing retreat by turning off appliances, and embrace quiet time.
Turn Off Notifications
There's a reason remote vacations with limited Wi-Fi offer such allure. Research suggests the incessant ping of notifications is addictive and could be to blame for rising stress levels. Channel vacation vibes by designating time to turn off phone and email notification alerts, and set a limit with yourself on how many times you'll check them.
Findings presented at the Acoustical Society of America's 2015 annual meeting suggest that listening to nature sounds boosts your mood and productivity. Lead author Jonas Braasch said that natural sounds can help rejuvenate our brain power, and found that participants performed better and reported feeling happier when listening to nature sounds, such as flowing water.
Curate a Playlist
The psychological benefits of music are well-known, but how do you know which songs are best to dispel stress? According to one study, quiet classical music with a slow tempo and without too much volume variation is optimal for relaxation. Create a playlist with lyric-free soft classical music, light jazz, or whatever genre of music makes you feel the most peaceful.
Add Natural Elements
Create a sense of calm and balance in your home by embracing the Japanese practice of wabi-sabi, or finding beauty in imperfection. For a balanced home, the key is imperfection: Opt for accents made from natural materials like rough wood, unpolished stone, or woven jute.
Cerrano says the ultimate zen home strikes a delicate balance of hard and soft textures—think yin and yang. "Yin is female energy, which could be translated in a physical environment to soft textures, darker colors, and low lighting," Cerrano explains.
"Yang relates to male energy, which could be translated as hard surfaces, solid textures, and a well-illuminated space," Cerrano adds. Make sure your space is balanced, with soft items like a mohair throw and hard surfaces like mirrors or ceramic lamps.
Upgrade Your Linens
It wouldn't be a staycation without fresh, fluffy linens. Treat yourself by trading worn towels and sheets for new ones. While softness is a matter of personal preference, bedsheets come in a variety of natural and synthetic materials and blends, from linen to percale and microfiber to sateen.
Add a Fire Element
"[Introducing this element] could help create an atmosphere of unwinding and relaxing," Cerrano says. "This could be implemented with candles, a fireplace, or the addition of small accented warm colors in your home."
Choose a Citrus Fragrance
A 2012 study in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine revealed that participants felt less anxious during a stressful test when they smelled sweet orange essential oil. Light a citrus candle, or burn essential oil to reap similar benefits at home.
Cerrano and Belt agree that adding living plants or flowers to your home is an instant way to de-stress an environment. "When selecting plants, choose ones that have round, soft, or curved leaves, such as bamboo, peace lily, rubber tree, or Boston fern," Cerrano says.
Feeling stressed? Research suggests reaching for foods that help stabilize blood pressure may relieve tension. For example, a 2019 study found that green, leafy vegetables are ideal, as they contain B vitamins, which produce the feel-good hormone dopamine. Other foods to stock your fridge with include turkey breast, oatmeal, and yogurt (the kind with minimal added sugars, which can spike blood sugar levels).
Stock Your Wet Bar
It wouldn't be a vacation without a cocktail (or mocktail) in hand. Splurge on a few special bar-cart items, mix a cabana-worthy cocktail, and relax, knowing you never have to check out.
Prioritize Natural Light
Science suggests that sunlight boosts mood by increasing serotonin (the feel-good hormone) levels. So nix the dark bat cave vibes and draw back those curtains and other window treatments to let as much sun in as possible. Mirrors and other reflective surfaces help bounce light around, too.
Define Living and Work Spaces
Even if you live in tighter quarters, you can still keep work and relaxation areas separate. Use area rugs to define different spaces, and don't make it a habit to overlap working where you typically relax and vice versa. This way, your body naturally recognizes what to do in each environment.
Swap Your Bulbs
These days, LEDs and compact fluorescents are standard home light bulbs. However, they emit blue wavelengths (also known as blue light) which—if you're exposed to them for too long—can throw your circadian rhythm off. This means it may be harder to wind down and get to sleep when you want to.
Create your at-home oasis by swapping out these lights for light bulbs that produce zero or minimal blue light in relaxation areas like the bedroom or reading nook. Lighting Science and Soraa are just a couple of the companies selling these types of bulbs.
Make Your Bed
As the focal point of your bedroom, a made bed can go a long way to create a calm and orderly feel to a space. Plus, the state of our bed is one of few things we have control over, which can put us in the right mindset before we start our day. It's also a welcome sight before we turn in come evening.
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